The BBC News article Climate change: Oceans 'soaking up more heat than estimated' mentions Argo floats as one technology to measure the temperature of the oceans, and links to argo.ucsd.edu where there is the map below that looks surprisingly uniform.

I had thought that an initial distribution of floating objects would, over the course of years, end up clumpy and gyre-bound. Is there something that is actively managing this uniformity, or at least passively maintaining it?

From the UCSD link:

What is Argo?

Argo is a global array of 3,800 free-drifting profiling floats that measures thetemperature and salinity of the upper 2000 m of the ocean. This allows, for the first time, continuous monitoring of the temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean, with all data being relayed and made publicly available within hours after collection.

Positions of the floats that have delivered data within the last 30 days :

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1 Answer 1


I think, there are two factors which prevent the forming of clusters of floats:

  1. The floats' lifespan. Batteries supposedly last for four years, then the floats become debris which sink to the bottom of the ocean (yeah, not that great from an environmentalist point of view). So the lifespan of the battery prevents the floats from clustering.
  2. The introdcution of new floats. Derelic floats are replaced by new ones to keep the network working. Naturally, these new floats are placed somewhere in the ocean, where they don't end up immediately in a gyre but will most likely provide the most possible diversity of data.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks! It seems the "floats" aren't floating on the surface, but "hover" at a parking depth most of the time. I wonder if migration would be slower there than at the wind-blown surface? www-argo.ucsd.edu/How_Argo_floats.html $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 2, 2018 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ Possibly. Also, ocean currents at 2 km depth may vary from those at the surface, making the floats travel unexpectedly, serving another goal of the project: Gaining more insight into deeper ocean currents. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Nov 2, 2018 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ Participants deploy about 800 new floats per year to keep the network at full strength as older floats fail or wash ashore. A great deal of effort goes into deploying floats in remote areas. $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2018 at 16:23

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